Popular Salon Shutdown After Owner Sentenced for Faith
Before May of this year, if you walked along Kuntian Road in Lingzi Township, you might have heard cheerful laughter. Following the sound, you would be led to Ms. Yao Guihua’s cozy hair salon, which welcomed a continual stream of visitors.
The salon was a neighborhood favorite because of Ms. Yao’s excellent skills, amicable personality, and fair prices. The 55-year-old treated her customers like family and serviced elderly and disabled people with almost no charge.
After May 4, 2021, the salon would be quiet and eventually forced into shutdown. For distributing informational materials on Falun Gong, Yao was arrested and on September 23, she was sentenced to three years to prison.
This is not the first time Yao has been persecuted for her faith. From her warm demeanor, few would know Yao had been tortured near death while incarcerated for her faith from 2006-2010. She was also violently beaten in October 2000, while still in the breastfeeding period of her months old son.
Below is her story.
Outset of Persecution: Violently Beaten During Breastfeeding Period
Yao began practicing Falun Gong in 1998. Shortly after taking up the practice, long-term ailments that had plagued her disappeared. These included arthritis, headaches, stomach problems, and endometritis. Additionally, Yao improved her temper and became less attached to profit. By adhering to the principles of Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance, she became a sincere and generous person.
After the persecution of Falun Gong began, Yao would be brutally beaten and persecuted to the brink of death for her persisting in her belief.
Wang Lijun is the secretary of Political and Legal Affair Committee of Lingzi Township. On October 9, 2000, at a time when Yao was still breastfeeding her infant son, Wang ordered to have her arrested. While in detention, she was not allowed to use the restroom and deprived of sleep. She was violently beaten by several policemen at night. She was persecuted for five days, released only after 9,000 yuan was extorted from her family.
Wang ordered another arrest of Yao in March 2001. She was detained for five days at Qiugu Forced Labor Camp.
Yao was then taken to Zhangdian Brainwashing Center on September 3, 2001. She was detained another two days.
Tortured to Disability After Four Years of Imprisonment
Yao and Ms. Cheng Guohua were talking to others about Falun Gong, when seized in a village in Zichuan District of Zibo City on September 3, 2006. Later, the police from Zichuan 610 Office and Cicun Police Stations raided their homes. Both practitioners were detained in Fujia Detention Center.
The Zichuan District Court then tried Yao, and sentenced her to four years in prison on January 23, 2007. As her husband worked out of town, her middle school-aged daughter and six-year-old son could only live with their grandparents. They struggled day-to-day to get by.
Yao was taken to Shandong Province Women’s Prison on April 20, 2007. She was detained by a training team that specialized in persecuting Falun Gong practitioners. Despite the intense atmosphere from the brainwashing sessions, Yao upheld her belief. In retaliation, guards Xue Yanqin, Sun Xiaoli and Xu Yumei instigated 20 inmates to beat her.
The inmates turned a square stool so the legs were facing up, and then proceeded to press Yao against the stool feet and beat her harshly. One inmate also grabbed her hair and one stepped on her legs. Yao’s hair was pulled so hard that the front portion of her hair was pulled out. She was tortured in this way for several days, until on the verge of death. Then she was thrown into a solitary confinement cell.
To protest the brutal treatment, Yao went on a hunger strike. The guards instructed inmates to force-feed her and injected her with unknown drugs.
After years of torture, Yao suffered scoliosis and lumbar degenerative lesions. The two sides of her waist became asymmetrical, with the left side protruding outward and the right side concave. Her body was deformed by the time of her release on September 3, 2010.
Latest Arrest, Trial and Sentence
Yao and Ms. Zhou Lizhi were reported to the authorities on May 14, 2021 while distributing materials on the persecution of Falun Gong. They were intercepted by police from Shangjia Town Police Station of Zibo Wenchanghu District and arrested.
Both women’s homes were also ransacked on the same day. Falun Gong related materials and some personal belongings were confiscated from their homes.
After their arrest, the women were interrogated three times at the police station before being released on bail the next day due to the pandemic.
On May 12, 2021, the police seized the women again. They were taken to a hospital for a checkup, interrogated, and released on the same day.
Two days later, however, the police arrested Yao at her home. She has been detained in Zibo City Detention Center since.
Yao’s arrest was approved in early June and Shangjia Police Station filed her case with the Zichuan District Procuratorate in late June. In August, Zichuan District Procuratorate indicted her and moved her case to Zichuan District Court.
The Zichuan District Court tried Yao via a remote video session on September 1, 2021. Judge Zhao Chenggang, prosecutor Bai Liang, Yao’s lawyer, and three of her family members were present in the courtroom. The security was tight with extra security personnel deployed outside the court building.
Yao’s defense lawyer entered a not guilty plea for her and made a strong defense against the charges.
Bai Liang questioned Yao, “You should practice Falun Gong at home and should not go out to distribute information. For upholding your belief in Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance, you were sentenced to four years in prison [in 2006]. Now you have been locked up in the detention center for so long. Is it worth it?”
Her lawyer responded, “Yao is persistent in her belief. After being sentenced to four years in prison, she is detained again. This is not her fault. Imprisonment cannot change a person’s faith.” The judge and prosecutor remained silent.
The lawyer continued, noting that distributing Falun Gong materials did not harm others or their property. Society and public interests were also not threatened by the distribution. In short, his client did not violate any laws. He demanded Yao’s acquittal.
When Yao testified, prosecutor Bai Liang and judge Zhao Chenggang were uncooperative. They shouted at her when she repeated that practicing Falun Gong was not a crime and demanded to be acquitted.
Three weeks later on September 23, 2021, Yao was sentenced by to three years in prison with a 5,000-yuan fine.
Based on an original report from Minghui.org: